Monday, 25 April 2016

A question of colour

just what colour is something, is it like beauty in the eye of the beholder or perhaps in the mind of the the describer?

I am sure we have all had the kind of conversation were one person admires a blue dress, another points out it is turquoise and a third pipes in its green.  The ambient light can impact on what we see, I once bought a dark olive green coat, well that is the colour it appeared in the shop, when I got it home it was grey. This experience has resulted in my carrying scraps of any material I want to match in my pocket so I can compare  it with any potential match in the same light. (A picture on my phone distorting the shade).

My BFF in addition to liking rainbows is inordinately fond of purple, she stated stitching a nativity silhouette in a shade I would have called pink, she called it purple and on checking the thread colour the manufacturer termed plum.

Then there is that dress, you know the one with the question was it blue or gold?  With the difference in responses from the viewers having a scientific explanation that would support the "in the eye of" saying.

So it is hard enough trying to get an agreement on a shade when you are looking at the item at the same time.  Describing the colour of something to someone else who has not seen it is a step further and at that stage I try to refer to items we have in common.  So references to  a mutual friends car or a favorite dress even on occasion the thread number of DMC.

However, I have had a conversation which clearly demonstrated the difficulties of the nebulous concept of colour.

One of the ladies at Church mentioned she would like to attend the quilting night to make some cushion covers for her living room.  I asked if she had some material and she noted she was looking for some to match her couch.  The following Sunday with the quilting night imminent I asked her again if she had found some material. She advised me no, but one of the other ladies had some she could use.  Oh I asked what is it like, she did not know as she had not seen it.  Does it go with your couch. "Oh yes", was the answer, "my couch is orange and so is the material".  I paused for a moment and then said what shade of orange is your couch.  The reply, "it's orange." OK, orange like orange the fruit?  "Well, no, but it is orange". I tried again and eventually elicited the reply it was like salmon. 

A further pause and I tentatively suggested smoked salmon (that at least being orange and not venturing into the realms of red and pink) she agreed smoked salmon. Somewhat satisfied that we had established some parameters for the couch ( I will note that it had taken almost 15 minutes of conversation and some laughter to reach this point), I then asked if the lady with the material had ever seen the couch to know that the material she had would match.  

The reply, "no, I told her it is orange and she has orange material so it will match". Ever heard the team back to square one? My face must have done something strange at this point and there was more laughter from us both, for one reason or another.  I then tried to explain that the other lady may not have immediately had the same shade in her mind in response to the word orange.  We had just about agreed that if the material was orange like the fruit it was not going to go well with her orange like a salmon and we should check with the material doner what she had, I thought we had made progress.

A third lady walked into the room (not the one with the material) and my companion invited her into the conversation with the question, "you know orange"?

Before she could be drawn in to the alternate universe of this conversation I asked her two questions.
1 have you seen (name's) couch
2 have you seen the orange material (name) has.

The response to both was no, and I suggested she did not want to participate, with a rueful smile she agreed and walked away. Cushion maker and I had further laughter as I tried to explain that a third person without having seen both couch and material was not going to be able to establish ORANGE in this instance.

Fortuitously the owner of the material walked past at that moment and after some carefully structured questions confirmed her material was as the fruit and not the fish. Success, well sort of as now we had established that the material available was not suitable and material for cushions was still required with only four days before the quilting night.

The two ladies went shopping together and on the quilting night four cushions were successfully made.  The colour, well I would call it cream but at this stage who knows what colour it really is or what several other people might call it! Magnolia, ecru, ivory, champagne, linen, almond,off white....

Now any conversation that is having difficulty establishing a common ground or a single point of understanding and the phrase "you know orange" pops into my mind.

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